Rememberances of Life in the Dawson, Nebraska Area

Feature Story May 2004
Rememberances of Life in the Dawson, Nebraska Area
As told by Kenneth Heim in his Autobiography, 3/07/2000
Some of my most fond memories are from the early 40’s. After Grandmother Heim had passed away in 1942, I used to go to see Grandpa Heim in the evenings and sit in the wooden swing on his front porch with him. We would visit until it was time for me to go home to bed. We talked about everything from the days when he was a kid to happenings at the present.

Especially interesting were his telling about the town, school and farm back when he was young. I learned a lot and he and I became very close. That is something that many kids don’t have the chance to do now because we don’t live close to our children and have the day to day contact like we did in those days. He used to tell me stories and later on I realized that sometimes he was “pulling my leg”. He liked a good joke. One of those stories that I remember was about “When he was young a tornado storm came across the farm next to their house. They all went to the basement of the house and after the storm had passed, they came out to see what damage had been done. He said that he found wheat straws driven into fence posts and kept hearing a rooster crow but couldn’t find him. Finally they found him inside of the old cider jug”. I can believe the straws being driven into posts maybe, but the rooster in a jug? Another one was that when he was a young man, “he could stand still and jump out twelve feet”. And how he could shoot the heads off of sparrows when they would stick their heads up over the peak of the barn roof. Well, maybe that one. He was known to be a good shot with a rifle, pistol and shotgun. I guess I should think up some of those type stories to tell my grandchildren. Maybe they would remember me then.

He used to tell about what it was like when they first came to Nebraska from Pennsylvania. They rode the train to Rulo, Nebraska and after a couple days journeyed to a farm near Dawson where they settled down… He told about clearing the land, building fences, planting the hedges of Osage Orange trees, plowing up the prarie sod with a special sod busting plow (hence the name “Sod Buster” for a farmer) and killing prarie rattle snakes until there were no more. Sometimes he would tell about the way things were in Dawson at that time. Gun fights and bad guys. I believe he said that he went to school through the 8th grade (few ever went that far in school). He was a very smart man. He had the Kansas City Star and the Falls City Journal newspapers delivered to his home daily and read them from front to back. He kept complete records on the grain and cattle markets and always sold when the prices were the best. He had a shelf in the dinning room where he kept his business papers and records. It was said that the neighbors would wait until grandpa sold his grain and animals to sell theirs because they knew that he would always hit the highest market prices. He always kept a very large garden. Actually three. There was one south of the house, a small one north of the house and the largest one further north by the pear orchard. He kept a “hot bed” (a precursor to the greenhouse) to start plants while there was still snow on the ground. A hot bed is a small area, (about 4 feet by 8 feet) that has horse manure buried down about a foot in to the ground, and then some mixed in with the dirt above. Since the horse manure ferments, it generates a lot of heat that keeps the ground above warm as well as fertilized. Boards that went down into the ground and extended about a foot above the ground ringed this 4X8 area and then there was a tight cover with glass panes over it. The heat from the manure and the sun shining through the glass cover would start the seeds growing. At night it would be covered with a canvas to help insulate it from the cold and on warm days, the cover with glass panes in it would be removed. This hot bed enabled him to start tomatoes, cabbage, egg plant, etc. while the weather was cold and then transplant them into the garden when he was sure that it wouldn’t frost anymore. Planting a garden was a family project. We planted nearly everything from peas to parsley. A story is told about my twin brother Keith, as we planted the potatoes, wondering when we planted the gravy. I tease him that he was a senior in high school when he asked that but he contends that he was very young.